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Robert-Jan Smits, the open-plan architect

Some of Europe’s biggest research funders have decided to seize control of the publication of the work they support. The plan’s architect lays it out in an interview with Research Europe.

In October 2003, representatives of European governments, universities, funders and libraries gathered in Berlin’s stately Harnack House, the meeting place of the Max Planck Society of German research institutes. They came to sign a declaration on the online distribution of research publications. They left elated at what they considered a historic pledge to help make publicly funded research freely available.

But progress since then has been painfully slow. In May 2016, EU ministers set themselves a goal of achieving immediate open access to all publications from publicly funded research by 2020. This was an ambitious target, as only 17 per cent of scientific papers had been made openly available upon publication in 2014, according to a study for the European Commission. The report, published in February 2017, predicted that without intervention, only about half of the papers would be available immediately by 2025.

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